Tuesday, June 24, 2014


 UPDATE:  08:00 AM



Stark County has been experiencing lots of violent weather over the past week or so.

Last night the weather seemed to come indoors as North Canton City Council members and North Canton citizens (mostly members of the Concerned Citizens of North Canton) took turns in blasting each other with thunder and lightening strikes that appear to have done great damage to the prospect that relationships are likely to settle down anytime soon in The Dogwood City.


Last evening's council meeting started off placid enough with the swearing-in of newly appointed fourth ward councilman Dominic Fonte.

But the placidity evaporated into the stormy skies above as the meeting moved along.

There were two segments of the meeting in which thunder-boomers dominated.


On the heels of Fonte being sworn-in in front of family and friends, his benefactors (i.e. the appointing council members) got slammed big-time by long time council antagonist Chuck Osborne (a former councilman of more than a decade ago) for the manner in which members came to select Fonte as councilman.

After Osborne, a number of concerned citizens took to the lectern to make one point or another about the sins of council and/or the Mayor David Held administration.

Citizen Miriam Baughman took to "front and center" to climb all over Law Director Tim Fox (an appointee of council) and, of course, council itself for its consideration of an ordinance to change procedures one must engage in to obtain "public records" from North Canton government.

At issue is what appears to have been a Tim Fox ordinance initiative to curtail Ohio law rights to the general public, including, of course, North Canton citizens in obtaining what is defined in Ohio law as being "discoverable by and available to the public" records of Ohio government units.

The SCPR thinks Ms. Baughman totally embarrassed Director Fox in her revelation that:
  • His proposed change to the North Canton Public Records availability appears to be in violation of Ohio's Sunshine Law (openness and accessibility),
  • His misnumbering of the ordinance number (56-14) inasmuch as she points out in the video that North Canton Council had previously passed an ordinance with the 56-14,
  • Her assertion (that Fox had not published the proposed ordinance on North Canton's website until very late yesterday (an assertion which Fox can be heard in the Baughman video to be denying), and
  • Her assertion (in pushing for "transparency" in North Canton government) that North Canton was about to pass (it was on last night's agenda for a third reading which is the "final" step before a vote for passage) on employment pay matters with the "glaring" omission as to whom and under what circumstances and conditions "compensation time" was to be accorded to North Canton employees
    • SCPR Note:  The Report believes that this was another embarrassment to Fox whom The Report thinks should have caught this failure of the ordinance to deal with a highly significant pay factor for North Canton employees
Citizen Baughman did her homework before speaking out last night.

On the public records part of her comments to council, she first examined the proposed ordinance.

Here is here "alert" e-mail to the SCPR.
Packet for tonight now on City website

        Miriam Baughman
        Jun 23 at 12:53 PM

To    ...

The packet including the draft Public Records Policy is now on the City's website.

At first reading I believe I have discovered an error.  107.07 Delivery methods.    Mr. Fox is saying in the draft ordinance the City has no requirement to provide records via telephone, email, facsimile or internet.    

 However the Public Records Act clearly states the requester has the right to choose the copy medium (paper, film, electronic file etc.)  The Act furter
[sic] specifies the the public office MUST transmit copies of records via the US mail "or by any other means pf delivery or transmission" at the choice of the requester.
How did Baughman come by her knowledge?

She had gone to the Ohio attorney general's website and combed through the Attorney General's excellent publication on public records and open meetings.

And she pulled several paragraphs for a handout to Director Fox and members of council to authoritatively make her point that Fox was not very impressive in terms of complying with "existing" Ohio law in his legislative proposal, to wit:
8. Requester Choices of Media on Which Copies are Made

A requester must specify whether he or she would like to inspect the records, or obtain copies. ...  If the requester asks for copies, he or she has the right to choose the copy medium (paper, film, electronic file, etc.). ... The requester can choose to have the record copied: (1) on paper, (2) in the same medium as the public office keeps them,115 or (3) on any medium upon which the public office or person responsible for the public records determines the record can “reasonably be duplicated as an integral part of the normal operations of the public office . . . ” ... The public office may charge the requester the actual cost of copies made, and may require payment of copying costs in advance. ...
(emphasis added)
9. Requester Choices of Pick-up, Delivery, or Transmission of Copies; Delivery Costs

A requester may personally pick up requested copies of public records, or may send a designee. ...  Upon request, a public office must transmit copies of public records via the U.S. mail “or by any other means of delivery or transmission,” at the choice of the requester. ... The public office may require prepayment of postage or other actual delivery cost, as well as the actual cost of supplies used in mailing, delivery, or transmission. ...
(emphasis [underlining and text color change added)
    Baughman showed how effective a citizen can be in doing "due diligence" (more than what the SCPR thinks Law Director Fox did) in combing through proposed legislation to find obvious defects.  She succeeded last night in getting council to "table" proposed ordinances 56?-14 and 42-14 while repairs are made.

     What a terrific civic activist job by Citizen Baughman, no?

    Just on Baughman's presentation alone, it is hard to understand how much it seems that North Canton City Council and Mayor David Held are "in thrall" to Law Director Fox.

    As for Held, the SCPR believes (based on observing his actions over the past six years as a city official) he is a guy who develops uncritical relationships with administration officials solely on his perceived notion that these are "loyal to David Held employees" that he must defend at all costs.

    A historical example of this Held-propensity would be his inexplicable defense of former North Canton administrator E.E. Wise, Jr in the face of heavy public criticism.

    Held's fixation with Fox, the SCPR believes, is akin to his being enamored with Wise.

    Fox's hold on council is more difficult to assess.

    The Report thinks it has several aspects to it.

    First, his opinion in November, 2013 that Chuck Osborne's initiated ordinance curbing health care benefit eligibility to North Canton councilpersons was invalid, seems to have forged a bond, at a minimum, between those members of council (Peters, Kiesling, Werren and Snyder [now a former councilman]) that induces council in a majority sense to jump to Fox's defense whenever a citizen or citizens ask that Fox be removed as law director.
    • SCPR Note:  The Report has learned that a lawsuit filed by Fox on behalf of North Canton at the initiative of Mayor Held to have the Stark County Court of Common Pleas [Judge John Haas] declare the Osborne initiative (passed by nearly a 3 to 1 margin by North Cantonians in November, 2012) is probably going to be successful.
      • The Report understands that Judge Haas is telling legal counsel for the respective parties that since council has passed its own ordinance incorporating Osborne's changes, he is going to declare the voter approved legislation invalid inasmuch as council has made the voter passed ordinance change UNLESS counsel (Osborne's) can come up with a legal basis for his not doing so.
    Second, The SCPR believes that "the deal was," when council appointed Fox law director back in September, 2012, that Fox (who had been elected Ward 3 councilman in November, 2011 [the post that Stephanie Warren was appointed to when Fox became law director) that as law director he take steps and measures to rein in Chuck Osborne who has been an unceasing and unremitting critic of council for over 10 years now.

    Third, (suggested to the SCPR by a third party), with the resignation of long time councilman and, at the time, council president Jon Snyder Fox sensed a vacuum in council leadership with the appointment by the rest of council of Jeff Peters as council president.

    As with anyone "new on the job," Peters is growing into the job of being council president and likely feels vulnerable to the bevy of criticism that council is currently undergoing and consequently unduly relies on Fox as a prop in order to survive in his council leadership role.

    It appears to the SCPR that Director Fox fawning of council persons in an ongoing internal "politiking"  (sorry Councilwoman Werren, North Canton Council is rife with internal political discord notwithstanding her protestations to the contrary) to keep his job as law director.

    While most members of North City Council will look you in the eye and tell you how appreciative they are for the likes of Osborne and the Concerned Citizens of North Canton, the SCPR is not buying this line.

    The Report thinks they in their innermost selves - for the most part - bristle at any criticism they get.

    Last night the sensitivity (see videos of individual council members below) got extended beyond Osborne et al, to include the editorial board of The Repository because of this editorial written last week, to wit:
    Editorial: Why interview job applicants in secret?

    Our view: North Canton Council won't resolve trust issues this way

    Posted Jun. 18, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

    Members of North Canton City Council filled a vacant council seat Monday night. “I think we all agreed that we could not go wrong with either choice,” Council President Jeff Peters said of the two applicants afterward. 
    While having a vacancy isn’t good, having only qualified applicants to fill it is a good problem to have. Which makes us wonder even more: Why interview the applicants in secret? 
    After longtime Councilman Jon Snyder resigned in May, former city Law Director Roy Batista and real-state agent Dominic Fonte applied for Snyder’s Ward 4 seat. Council members interviewed them behind closed doors June 9. On a 4-1 vote Monday, they chose Fonte. 
    This isn’t to say council had anything specific to hide, but what would council members ask the applicants in private that they wouldn’t want to ask in public? Why not let residents watch the process from start to finish by conducting the interviews in an open session? 
    You’d think that with all the trust issues council created by ignoring voters’ mandate to limit city-paid health insurance for part-time elected officials, council would want to go out of its way to choose a council member — a job that these voters usually do themselves — in as transparent a way as possible.
    The SCPR concurs with The Repository editorial board.

    Over the years, (increasingly so since Daryl Revoldt left the council presidency several years ago) it appears to The Report that North Canton City Council has become "the least transparent" of all of Stark County's city councils.

    And the addition of Tim Fox as law director seems to have had the catalytic effect of making North Canton Council the least open, the least accessible, the least communicative and - to say it again - the least transparent of all of Stark County's city councils.

    In a post-council-session interview with newly appointed Dominic Fonte, he acknowledges that he knows that work needs to be done to restore trust that engaged North Canton citizens have in their city council.

    And here is a series of video clips of all of North Canton's councilpersons (Doug Foltz was absent) dealing with their "upset" of The Repository editorial, the Fonte appointment and other matters.







    The SCPR is not optimistic that matters are going to improve anytime soon between the seemingly beleaguered council and eagle-eyed activist citizens that attend each and every council meeting.

    Why is that?

    Because the person that the SCPR thinks is the main problem in fueling the discontent remains fully ensconced as law director.

    Either Tim Fox has to have a "born again" experience in terms of abandoning his "apparent to the SCPR" hostility to citizen participation in the life of North Canton government, or council is going to have to wrest from him the public perceived control he has over council and the mayor in order for a healing to take place so that trust once again takes hold between North Cantonians and their government.


    Here is video (excerpts thereof) of other Concerned Citizens of North Canton who spoke during Public Speaks at last night's meeting.



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